Mummified remains of battered student found

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Mummified remains of battered student found

The mummified body of a girl who stopped attending middle school more than 10 months ago was discovered by police in a room surrounded by air fresheners Wednesday.

The Bucheon Sosa Police Precinct on Wednesday arrested the girl’s parents on suspicions of child abuse and murder. Under questioning, the father, a 47-year-old pastor surnamed Lee, admitted to beating the 13-year-old for five hours with a broomstick on March 17 last year. He and the stepmother, surnamed Baek, later found the daughter dead, covered her in blankets and kept the body inside their house for over 10 months.

Baek’s 39-year-old younger sister was also arrested Wednesday on suspected abuse charges.

The girl did not get along with her stepmother, aged 40, and lived with her step-aunt starting in 2012. She ran away from the step-aunt’s home on March 15 last year and called on a former elementary school teacher. The teacher brought her to her parents.

“I asked her why she had run away from her aunt’s home, hit her with a broomstick and a drying rack to discipline her, and told her to go to sleep,” Lee told police in the first round of questioning. “I took a nap in another room and woke up to find her dead.”

Lee and Baek refused to provide a statement on why they kept the body in a room in the house for nearly a year.

The discovery was the result of an ongoing police investigation of 220 children who have been missing from school for unknown reasons. The investigation was sparked by the case of an 11-year-old girl who had been held captive by her parents and starved for two years in Incheon last December. Police have already discovered another grisly find: the remains of a 7-year-old boy were found in his parents’ freezer years after he had stopped attending school. That incident also occurred in Bucheon, Gyeonggi.

On March 31 last year, Lee reported to the police that his daughter had run away from home on March 17.

When the new investigation into missing children began, police learned from the girl’s school friend that she had been physically abused.

Suspecting foul play, the police searched Lee’s house on Wednesday. Next to the mummified body in the room were about 10 air fresheners.

Lee is a Christian pastor and an assistant professor at a theological college in Korea.

“We heard singing and chants at his church in the evening yesterday,” said the owner of a store inside the church building.

Lee has a son in high school and another daughter. Neither lives with him or knew about their sibling’s death.

BY CHOI MO-RAN, CHO HAN-DAE [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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